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08. October 2020

20 years of UN Resolution 1325 “Women and Peace and Security”: Progress so far

On October 31, 2000, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1325 on “Women, Peace and Security”. This was the first time ever that this powerful body had focussed on the situation of women and girls in the context of war. The Council concluded that a contribution to world peace can be made by protecting women and girls, and allowing them full participation in peace processes. Nine subsequent resolutions have been agreed by the United Nations (UN) since then, forming the comprehensive Agenda on “Women, Peace and Security”.

UN Resolution 1325 was truly ground-breaking: in contrast to classical concepts of security, it does not put the state at the centre of security policy but rather the rights and needs of women and girls during armed conflict. This paradigm shift was achieved largely due to the tireless commitment of women’s rights activists. They had been campaigning since the World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 for the Security Council to deal with the issue. In this way, it finally became possible for a legally binding framework to be created.

The United Nations and its member states are obliged to implement the Agenda “Women, Peace and Security” in a full and comprehensive way. This is clearly a success for the international feminist movement.

Protection against violence, participation in peace negotiations, prosecution of perpetrators – in theory only?

In spite of this significant normative achievement, Agenda “Women, Peace and Security” has remained no more than a rhetorical declaration of intention for the 264 million women and girls living in conflict areas around the world.

The political will is still missing to turn this intent into tangible, lived reality. And the financial resources that would be necessary for this are also not being made available sufficiently. Around the world, therefore, women’s rights activists still face a hard struggle to achieve practical progress. This can be seen when it comes to the participation of women in the peace negotiations in Afghanistan, or when perpetrators of sexualised violence in Iraq should be finally brought before a court of law.

Prevent achievements from being undone: Defend women’s rights!

Furthermore, we are currently experiencing a backlash against women’s rights. The Agenda “Women, Peace and Security” is facing political pressure, including efforts by some powerful members of the Security Council such as Russia, China or the USA to undermine women’s rights and once again question the right of self-determination of women and girls. One example of this can be seen in the negotiations surrounding Resolution 2467, brought to the Security Council by Germany. Pressure from the US government led to changes in the draft resolution removing references to services for the sexual and reproductive health of survivors of gender-based violence. So there is a very real risk that achievements already agreed will now be watered down or even undone.

It is therefore important to defend existing resolutions and their original wording at an international level, and also to ensure progress in prioritising the practical implementation of the Agenda.

German government dragging its heels on implementation of UN Resolution 1325.

The German government is an influential political actor and an important funder, so it can make a significant contribution in this regard. However, for a long time it appeared reluctant to take the issue of women, peace and security seriously. It was not until the start of 2012 that the government published its First National Action Plan on the implementation of the resolution. The plan itself was only weakly impact-oriented, and the political will for its implementation was lacking.

In the current parliamentary term, however, the government has given the Agenda a higher priority and can demonstrate some progress. For example, the German government has made the issue a focal point of its non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council. At present it is drafting the Third National Action Plan, which is intended to ensure that the Agenda “Women, Peace and Security” is appropriately reflected in German foreign, security and development policy.

Germany has to shape interior and foreign policy in a gender-equitable manner

Unfortunately, the federal government still primarily treats the Agenda as an instrument merely for empowering women, which is problematic. There is still hardly any sign of other important changes such as conflict analyses and assessments of political decisions being carried out in a gender-sensitive manner. The indispensability of this can be seen in the current challenges we are facing. The Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and the dismantling of democracy taking place around the world are all hazards to peace and security. They all have gender-specific impacts and they all need gender-equitable solutions. In its forthcoming plan of action on “Women, Peace and Security”, the German government should therefore commit itself to developing its domestic and foreign policy in a gender-equitable manner.

Third National Action Plan: Prioritising the rights of women and girls

In order for this to succeed, the Third National Action Plan needs to be impact-oriented in a much stronger way than the previous plans. The following steps would be necessary to achieve this: First, the German government has to analyse the specific national need for action. Based on this, it should then set focal areas, objectives, measures, indicators and responsibilities. Then, binding and transparent mechanisms of accountability need to be put in place. And finally, civil society needs to be involved in the monitoring of the implementation of the Action Plan.

Additionally, the German government needs to make available sufficient financial and staffing resources for the Action Plan. In light of the effects of the Covid-19 crisis and the distribution of financial resources in its wake, it unfortunately appears that the needs of women and girls will not be conferred any great priority. This would be disastrous.

Author: Jeannette Böhme, Advocacy and Human Rights Officer at medica mondiale.

Related Topics

Open Letter to Permanent Representatives to the United Nations on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Resolution 1325 (2000)

Women, Peace, Security: “In reality, little has changed for those affected by violence.”

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